Men in Black: International is set to function as a soft reboot for the franchise, which means that despite the change in leads, the adventures of Agent J and Agent K are still canon to the series. Nonetheless, in order to open the saga up beyond its usual New York location, it seems that the film may take liberties somewhat with the franchise mythology.
To elaborate, in the 1997 Men in Black, we learn that MIB was set up in the mid-1950s as an organization devoted to making contact with alien life forms. Though the agency was initially seen as a joke, that changed in 1961 when a group of extraterrestrial beings were discovered landing just outside of New York. But according to production designer Charles Wood, the upcoming film will suggest that MIB already existed on an international level several decades prior, telling Entertainment Weekly:
“Whereas the original look of Men in Black was sort of set in the 1960s, we’re actually taking it back in time and saying that International exists in many cities around the world, and maybe even started a century ago.”
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Hemsworth, meanwhile, has explained that International will serve as “a sort of reinvention, an opening up of the original franchise that aesthetically is a lot different. Like the geography of this one, we’re not just in New York — we’re in Istanbul, Italy, London.” Evidently, the film is set to observe mankind’s contact with alien life on a significantly larger scale than the saga’s first three entries, so perhaps it only figures that MIB’s timeline would expand to make room for some extra history.
In any case, it’s unlikely that this retcon will prove a deal breaker for many fans of the franchise. If there’s anyone out there who treats the universe cohesion of the Men in Black movies as seriously the most intense fans of Marvel or Star Wars do, then we haven’t yet heard from them. But if the change to canon bothers you, then hopefully Men in Black: International can still win you over when it hits theaters on June 14th, 2019.